March 1, 2003

More farms listed for compulsory acquisition

Evictions continue as government lists more farms for compulsory acquisition despite assurance to the Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU) that the fast-track land reform programme ended last year. Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Minister, Dr Joseph Made stated in a Memorandum of Understanding for the CFU to sign that the fast-track resettlement programme was over. Made said the government was ready to work with commercial farmers. In two extraordinary gazettes published in the State media February 28, Made listed 16 more properties situated in various farming districts in the country.

According to a recent report by Justice for Agriculture (JAG), 22 farmers were issued with Section 8 (eviction) orders in Tengwe and Karoi in February. JAG president Dave Connolly said in an interview: "I have never trusted this government at all right from the time I was a member of the Zimbabwe Joint Resettlement Initiative. This programme, a joint initiative of the government and the farmers, failed because the government is not sincere." Connolly said while President Mugabe had told the international community that the mistakes made in the land reform programme were being corrected, the situation on the ground was different. "More farmers are being kicked off their farms. Farming activities are being disrupted as more farms are being listed," Connolly said.

CFU director, Hendrik Olivier, said the union was concerned that commercial farm disturbances continued although Made categorically stated in the Memorandum of Understanding that the government wanted to engage the CFU in dialogue. The Memorandum of Understanding was released for the CFU to sign two weeks ago. Olivier said the CFU had not signed the Memorandum of Understanding yet as the union was still studying it. He said: "We are concerned that the fast-track land reform programme was continuing while the Memorandum of Understanding stated that the exercise was over. More farms are being listed. We still see attempts to force evictions."

Despite promises made by the government that single farm owners would not be evicted, more than 1 000 commercial single farm owners had been forced off their land. Made said in the Memorandum of Understanding: "And whereas the government is fully committed to implement its policy of "one man, one farm" as part of its programme to rationalise and consolidate land reform to ensure equity and maximum possible utilisation of land for agricultural productivity in the long term. "And whereas it is the policy of the government that any member of the CFU, or anyone else similarly affected, by the compulsory acquisition of 11 million hectares of land already gazetted for resettlement purposes or who is currently on rural land that might be acquired for resettlement purposes, is entitled to apply for land for resettlement." The Memorandum of Understanding promises to pay evicted farmers for improvements made on the land while compensation for loss of land is to be paid for by the British government. (The Daily News, Harare)

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